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Bashing Toronto's Olympic bid

It might be the most ruthless of all Olympic competitions: the race for the right to host the Games. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in potential profit, and an indelible mark on the global map. To opponents it's a colossal waste of tax dollars, a carnival of hype, spin and speculation. CBC Archives looks back at Canada's winning and losing Olympic bids.

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Toronto should try saying "no" for once. That's the opinion of Bread Not Circuses, one of the strongest anti-Olympic organizations in the world. The local group of anti-poverty activists is embroiled in an uphill fight to scuttle Toronto's bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Members argue that the money from the Games - short-term "economic steroids" - never makes it to those that need it most. The Inside Track examines the conflict between hungry markets and hungry mouths.
• The phrase "give us bread, not circuses" has been used throughout history as a call for social equity instead of mere spectacle. It can be traced back to first century Roman satirist Juvenal (60-130), who wrote in his Satires, "Duas tantum res anxius optat, Panem et circenses" ("Only two things does he [the modern citizen] anxiously wish for -- bread and circuses.") It can be interpreted as meaning, "keep the people fed and distracted, and they'll keep quiet."

• There were six candidates for the 1996 Summer Games:
- Atlanta, United States
- Athens, Greece
- Toronto, Canada
- Melbourne, Australia
- Manchester, United Kingdom
- Belgrade, Yugoslavia

• Athens was considered the favourite going into the vote, campaigning for a homecoming of the modern Olympics Games for their 100th anniversary. But hopes were high for Toronto, said by International Olympic Committee members to have presented "the technically perfect bid" and located in the lucrative Eastern Time Zone (as was Atlanta.)

• On Jan. 26, 1990 Bread Not Circuses handed out an "anti-bid" book, detailing the reasons Toronto should not host the Games. They cited figures of 100,000 people each month lined up at food banks, up to 20,000 homeless, and a "devastating housing and poverty crisis" as more urgent targets for public resources.
• On May 16, 1990, Bread Not Circuses was given the unheralded opportunity to meet with visiting members of the IOC evaluation committee to air their concerns.

• The 1996, Toronto bid committee president was plumbing mogul and former Olympic yachtsman Paul Henderson (not the famous hockey player.) He predicted it would take five rounds of voting to determine the host of the 1996 Summer Games. He was right. At the Sept. 18, 1990, vote in Tokyo, Belgrade was eliminated first, followed by Manchester and Melbourne. Toronto was eliminated in the fourth round, with 22 votes to 34 for Atlanta and 30 for Athens. In the final round, Atlanta won with 51 votes to Athens' 35.

• When Toronto lost the bid, anti-Games activists celebrated in an "Olympic-free zone" in the city's portlands, a location that would have become Toronto's Olympic stadium. Henderson blamed the loss on Bread Not Circuses and left-leaning city councillors including Jack Layton (later leader of the federal New Democratic Party). Layton had made a point of publicly questioning the bid committee on social issues.
Medium: Television
Guest(s): Kris Korwin-Kuczynski, Rick Salutin, Michael Shapcott
Host: Mary Hynes
Duration: 8:32
Bid ad: Toronto Olympic Bid Committee

Last updated: May 25, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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